Thursday, August 26, 2010

Elk River Pauses Football Due to Hazing

While some high schools in the Northland struggle with low numbers, others are struggling for different reasons.

(If you didn't see the DNT article over the weekend, Wrenshall is going to field only a junior varsity team this season, Mesabi Academy will field no team, and Cotton merged with AlBrook. Also, on the fringe of the area, Laporte merged with Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.)

Elk River has pressed the "pause" button on their football season one week prior to its launch. Instead of preparing to play Becker on Sept. 2, the Elks are waiting for the results of a hazing investigation that has been launched.

(Warning: Some more sensitive readers may find the contents of the article a little disturbing.)

A hazing incident that forced the Elk River High School varsity football program to suspend practice this week involved some players striking other players with broom or mop handles, a source close to the investigation said Thursday.

The hazing apparently occurred Monday and Tuesday between morning and afternoon practices, the source said. Players entering the wrestling room were accosted, forced to the floor and struck or poked on or near the buttocks. Players were dressed in their uniforms, including padding, and no one was forced to disrobe, the source said. It's apparently the second year such hazing has occurred at the school.

Up to 25 players may have been involved as either victims or perpetrators, but the source said the final number will probably drop once the investigation is completed. Elk River officials said they have hired the Minneapolis law firm of Ratwick, Roszak & Maloney to conduct the investigation.

The program was suspended Wednesday after the parent of a player reported that her son was the victim of hazing.

There are more details in story, but I'll leave it up to you to read it at your discretion.

The investigation should conclude by Friday, and the article sites Elk River's athletic director as saying he doesn't expect the team to miss any scheduled games.

My wife noted that hazing happens all over, and she is right. What is debatable is where the line is, and when hazing goes from harmless fun to something that merits a criminal investigation, suspensions, and other sorts of discipline.

If the allegations printed in the Star Trib are true, it's not the end of the world. What Elk River will likely do is pin down the athletes responsible, issue a stern punishment against at least some of them, and move on with the football program.

This doesn't sound like a situation where a high percentage of Elk River's football roster was involved, and therefore a long-term suspension of football won't be needed.

Instead, the school is likely to try to send a strong message to its athletes. "Making the freshmen carry the seniors' pads" is acceptable hazing, but "hitting and poking them with mop handles" is not.

Seems like a pretty simple policy for kids to adhere to.

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